Best laptop games: 20 games for laptops that won’t melt your machine
The best laptop games used to prioritize convenience over visual brilliance, but with the best gaming laptops now rocking the most powerful processors and graphics cards, there are many opportunities to play the best PC games like Far Cry 5
Not that you should discount some of the best indie games either, which over the last few years have been beautiful without relying on complicated graphics – note Cuphead. Especially if you’ve got one of the best laptops, as opposed to a gaming one. Plus, beloved classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic may look dated, but still make for some of the best laptop games thanks to stellar gameplay and stories (even if, regrettably, that particular game isn’t considered canon anymore).
The best laptop games on the market today range from tiny indie games you maybe haven’t heard of, like Thimbleweed Park, to wildly popular triple-A games along the lines of The Sims 4. Whatever your play style, schedule and hardware, we’re willing to bet you’ll find something on this list that you’ll enjoy.
- Once you’re looking for something meatier, check out our best PC games
- CPU: 2 GHz
- RAM: 4 GB
- GPU: Intel HD 3000 or better
Whether he’s at LucasArts, Double-Fine or here and now in a new indie studio, veteran developer Ron Gilbert is guaranteed to serve up a slice of veritable gaming gold.
That tradition of flawless output continues with Thimbleweed Park, a pixel art point ‘n’ click adventure that harks back to the glory days of Maniac Mansion while weaving it together with a very modern eye for creativity.
It’s basically a murder mystery graphic adventure, where FBI agents Reyes and Ray – who in no way resemble another famous pair of fictional, UFO-chasing member of the Bureau – arrive in a quiet town to investigate a murder most horrid.
The way it interlaces together a truly clever story and a cast of unusual yet instantly unforgettable characters is something most games with far larger budgets miss completely. Is it a wonder why it tops our best laptop games list?
- CPU: Intel Core2 Duo E8400, 3.0GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+, 3.0GHz or higher
- RAM: 2 GB
- GPU: Geforce 9600 GT or AMD HD 3870 512MB
You might be turned off by the overwhelming amount of challenge it poses, but we assure you, Cuphead is worth a shot. If you don’t already find its vibrant, whimsical art style delightful, then maybe you’ll be convinced by some backstory of how it was made.
Cuphead is from indie developer Studio MDHR (short for Studio Moldenhauer), named after the two brothers who started the project, Chad and Jared Moldenhauer. In fact, the whole company consists of family members and friends who sought out to complete their dream project.
Marija Moldenhauer, Chad’s wife, did all of the inking and clean up in this hand-drawn ode to 2D platforming classics like Mega Man and 1930s Fleischer cartoons like Betty Boop. And, if the 19 bosses aren’t enough for you, Cuphead is getting a major DLC next year featuring new bosses, areas and a new playable character.
- CPU: 2 Ghz
- RAM: 2 GB
- GPU: 256 mb video memory, shader model 3.0+
If you love farming sims (and, considering how well the likes of Farming Simulator and Harvest Moon sell, there’s a few of you out there), then few games are going to get you jumping for agricultural joy more than the bewitching busywork of Stardew Valley.
Taking cues from the Harvest Moon games, Stardew Valley’s top-down point of view and cutesy characters feel blended together impeccably, making it one of the best laptop games right now.
It doesn’t sound very exhilarating, tending to fields, growing produce and raising livestock – but that’s the beauty of it. There’s a unique kind of peace to the mundanity of Stardew Valley’s minutia as you expand your farm, catch some fish down at the river and even head into the village to strike up friendships (and maybe something a little more) with a cast of NPCs. Farming has never been so much fun or addicting.
- CPU: Intel i5 Quad-Core
- RAM: 4 GB
- GPU: Intel HD 4000
In a lot of ways, we’re inclined to describe Night in the Woods as Life is Strange meets Bojack Horseman. The interactive dialogue bits remind you of the former while the overarching themes of coping with mental health issues rings true in the latter.
Night in The Woods itself was developed in Unity by Infinite Fall, the virtual studio where you’ll find coder and composer Alec Holowka and Twitter jokester slash illustrator and animator Scott Benson. Together, these two have crafted not just a game, but a spectacular world full of relatable characters that you will hopefully resonate with.
You take the role of Mae, a cat who dropped out of college and recently returned to her hometown of Possum Springs. It’s an entirely narrative-driven game, as modern point-and-click adventure games are, with very few gameplay hooks that will keep your attention. So, if you’re into Telltale Games or Life is Strange, Night in the Woods may be the best laptop game for you.
Best of all, it will run pretty smoothly on integrated graphics, given that it has an appealing, but not highly demanding, art style. Surely, this is a title we’ll be talking about for years and years to come, even if it was snubbed at The Game Awards.
- CPU: 1.2GHz
- RAM: 512 MB
- GPU: DirectX 8-compatible graphics card with at least 32MB of video memory
You’d wonder whether Hotline Miami’s neon-drenched ultraviolence would exist if the film Drive had never been made, and while it’s hard to miss just how enthusiastically it doffs its bloody mask at the Gosling classic, the end result is an absolutely brilliant little indie title and among the best laptop games to date.
With a pixel art conjuring that top-down look of Grand Theft Auto’s retro years, Hotline Miami indulges in its almost psychedelic violence. The concept is simple: don on a mask (each one is styled on an animal and adds is own buffs, debuffs and unique abilities), enter a stage and coat the walls with the blood of your enemies.
Add buckets of neon, a synth soundtrack that’ll have you sewing a scorpion onto the back of a white jacket in no time and one messed up storyline to the mix, and you’ve got a classic in its own right.
- CPU: Intel Core i3-2100T @ 2.50 GHz / AMD Phenom II X3 B73
- RAM: 4 GB
- GPU: ATI Radeon HD 4850 or NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT
While it’s a 2018 title and has a respectably massive following, your laptop’s integrated graphics can still handle Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire. It has largely the same forgiving system requirements that its predecessor, so if you are a fan of that game, you should be able to immerse yourself in this best laptop game as well.
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire drops players in the Deadfire archipelago and tasks them with hunting down a rogue god. And, much like its predecessor, it features rich storytelling and deep RPG gameplay that harkens to the days of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights.
While all the backgrounds are in 2D and viewed from a top-down perspective, they’re still lovely to behold. Plus, the myriad spell effects will keep you enchanted as you work your way through the intense and tactical combat.
And, because it’s coming from Obsidian, a studio known for making the best RPGs of all time, you can be confident that you’re getting an adventure that’s worth every penny.
- CPU: 1.5 GHz Core2Duo
- RAM: 2 GB
- GPU: OpenGL 1.4 or better
If somebody told you a game about working in a border control office would be one of the most addictive games ever, would you scoff and walk off shaking your head?
Well, you might give a little indie gem by the name of Papers, Please a chance. Set in a fictional take on the Eastern Bloc, you’re an immigration clerk tasked with processing refugees from a hostile neighbouring nation.
The core concept is simple: check each person’s documents against a clear set of rules, process those who meet the requirements and detain those with false papers.
The game is created to test your attention to detail, as well as the strength of your moral compass. Sometimes you’ll have to decide if specific sympathetic characters should be granted asylum, even if it goes against the rules.
The twist is good performance effectively feeds you family, while mistakes put their lives in danger. It’s dark, but engrossingly so.
- CPU: Intel Pentium 3 1Ghz or AMD Athlon 1GHz
- RAM: 256
- GPU: 32 MB with Hardware T&L
Come on! Do you really need convincing to go out and get a copy of Knights Of The Old Republic? Arguably the greatest Star Wars game ever made (yes, even better than Dark Forces II and Rogue Squadron), KOTOR proved that the most familiar lore ever could feel fresh and thrilling again outside of the silver screen.
Hailing from Bioware, the Canadian studio that would go on to produce the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, KOTOR delivers compelling characters, intense action that mixes real-time tactics with turn-based mechanics a galaxy of stories that felt tangible and real. Sure, it’s technically not canon anymore, but it still remains one of the greatest games ever coded – not to mention, the among best laptop games. Get this in your collection now.
- CPU: 2GHz+
- RAM: 3 GB
- GPU: 512MB
Part role-playing game, part bullet hell shooter, Undertale is a game like no other. The fact that this remarkable game is the work of one man is impressive, considering the depth of consequence developer Toby Fox has built into Undertale’s world.
In the small boots of a child who’s fallen into a monster-filled world beneath the earth where only the quick thinking survive, you’ll encounter brutal bosses.
The fact you can befriend bosses as well as battle them changes the fabric of the story, and shows that it’s not just NPCs that offer crucial moments of dialogue. It’s a game of empathetic reflection, where your actions dictate how a boss or monster reacts to you.
Aggression leads to more powerful attacks against you, while avoiding retaliation will soften the blows. Strange and seductive in its own special way, Undertale is a curio definitely worth chasing and one of the best laptop games to play right now.
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64X2
- RAM: 2 GB
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 100 series (512 Mb) or Radeon HD 3xxx or better
When it comes to CCGs (collectible card games), Hearthstone does a pretty impressive job of keeping you and your deck of animated cards entertained throughout – but what happens when you want something a little less innocuous? You give a CCG with a unique spin such as Chronicle: RuneScape Legends a gander.
Based on the classic lore of Runescape, Chronicle blends card-dealing with the 3D setup of a RPG. Cards represent real characters and enemies that appear across a 3D-rendered pop-up books.
Cards are played successively, with player characters facing each one (ranging from foes to curses to stat buffs), before facing off against one another at the end. It’s bizarre, brilliant and categorically worth your time.
Hey, it’s even got new single-player content when you don’t want to test your mettle against other users. Not too shabby for a low-spec CCG.
- CPU: 2GHz
- RAM: 1GB
- GPU: Card with 128MB+ dedicated memory
FTL sounds like an ultra-hardcore game when you’re talking about it: a real-time strategic space roguelike. A roguelike is a game that makes you start from scratch when you die. However, FTL is actually perfect for pretty casual laptop gaming. You can even get it for iPad, in fact.
You tool up your star ship, recruit your crew and do your best not to get annihilated as you take an important message from one end of the galaxy to the other. Screenshots don’t really give FTL justice, as all you see is a blocky graphic of your ship, not really its spacey surroundings.
However, it’s the best laptop game for public play: nothing on-screen to make you feel too embarrassed or keep fellow passengers glued to your screen, if you play on train journeys.
- CPU: dual-core 2GHz
- RAM: 2GB
- GPU: DirectX 9 compatible
Few games stay relevant as long as Skyrim. It should feel old and antiquated, but a mod scene has kept it relevant in the past half-decade. Being so old has also meant not as powerful hardware has been able to catch up with its real-life spec requirements.
It’ll run pretty well on Intel Core-series processors from the last 2-3 years, and even plays pretty well on some recent Atom/Pentium CPUs on its lowest settings. If you have a real dog of a laptop, there’s also a mod that’ll cut down the settings even more than the game itself allows, called Ultra Low Graphics Mod. Imaginative naming.
It’s one of the best laptop games to date, and many agree – in case you’ve been locked in a cupboard for the past five years, Skyrim is a massive open-world RPG that won countless ‘game of the year’ awards when it was released back in 2011.
- CPU: 1.7GHz dual-core
- RAM: 2GB
- GPU: Intel HD 3000 or newer
Remember the game that received millions and millions of dollars of funding on Kickstarter back when such things were unheard-of? That’s Broken Age, the point ‘n’ click platform made by one of the people who came up with Monkey Island back in the 90s.
It didn’t exactly and single-handedly revive the genre. However, it’s still a fun tale that is nowhere near as frustrating as most of the early 90s exploits, most of which are best viewed through a pair of rose-tinted nostalgia specs. From a distance.
You play as both male and female characters, skipping between chapters in their respective stories to make sure the narrative doesn’t get stale. We’re steering clear of spoilers, so we’ll let you uncover it on your own.
- CPU: 1.7GHz
- RAM: 512MB
- GPU: DX 8.1 compatible card
You might head straight for 2D games when you think of title that’ll work with pretty modest hardware. However, some once-fancy 3D games work very well with non-gaming laptops. Valve’s Source engine is especially good at working with less powerful GPUs, making classics like Half-life 2 play delightfully on modern integrated graphics hardware.
If you’re not up for a thinking person’s FPS like Half-Life 2, you might want to check out fantastic first-person puzzler Portal 2 instead. It is also based on the Source engine. Portal 2 takes the portal gun from Half-Life 2, which makes teleporting holes in walls, and makes a whole game out of it. It’s possibly one of the best games of all time, actually, and of course, of course among the best laptop games ever.
- CPU: Intel Pentium D
- RAM: 2GB
- GPU: Intel HD
It’s easy to think of Minecraft as retro in some way, but it’s actually far more groundbreaking than some of the nay-saying haters would have you believe. It is not just for kids, either. Try it, you might just like it.
This world-building classic was never out to wow audiences with its Crysis-style graphics, but its highly scalable visuals let you tweak Minecraft to suit any machine. As well as being able to experiment with the draw distance and the few visual effects the game uses, you can alter the field of view as well.
Minecraft is also best-suited for laptop gaming, as you don’t need to be very accurate with your cursor. This is handy if you’re using a trackpad rather than a mouse.
- CPU: 1.6GHz
- RAM: 1GB
- GPU: x1950 Pro, 7900 gt
Take 90s platform aesthetic, add a roguelike twist, a completely modern random level generator and a few RPG sprinkles to the mix, and you have Rogue Legacy. It’s one of the most addictive indie games of the last decade – not to mention, one of the best laptop games.
You play as a knight type, leaping right into a castle full of nasties. When you die, and you will die, you return as one of that warrior’s descendants. The castle will be different, as will the class of your character. While you have to start from scratch every time, you can unlock bonuses by collecting gold from chests in the castle.
This is the bit that makes it more accessible than a true roguelike game, where you really have to start from square one when you die.
- CPU: 2GHz
- RAM: 1GB
- GPU: Nvidia HD 4450
Don’t Starve is an outrageous little game where you wander around in a somewhat twisted nightmarish world, exploring and picking up supplies to try to survive, day by day. When the sun goes down, awful creatures start prowling in the shadows. If you don’t build a fire, you’re a goner.
You also have to eat to keep yourself healthy, and even your mental health deteriorates if you don’t find out ways to pep yourself up.
There are some nice visual effects in Don’t Starve, but as a predominantly 2D near-top-down game, it’s happy to work with all but the lowest powered laptops.
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
- RAM: 2GB
- GPU: Intel HD 1000
If you don’t mind tempting addiction in your laptop gaming, Hearthstone is a title not to miss. It is a little like nerd classic card battle game (and also video game) Magic: The Gathering, but much better-suited to quick, casual play.
Like many other modern casual games, however, you’ll likely end up playing for a lot longer than five minutes. And it feels even more “right” on a laptop than a bulky desktop.
It’s a Valve game and, like most Valve titles, fares extremely well on lower-end hardware. It officially supports the Intel HD 1000 integrated GPU, from way back in the Sandy Bridge generation half a decade ago.
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo
- RAM: 2GB
- GPU: Intel HD
Is Civilization the ultimate “PC” game? Many of us have spent a handful of full days working through Civilization’s virtual recap of the ages of man, whether it was back in the 90s, or just last week. Civilization V has more of the laid-back vibe that previous Civ games, but that makes it more accessible if you’re looking for something to kill 30 mins, rather than 3 hours.
It’ll work on almost any Intel Core series laptop from the past five years, but if you find yours still isn’t up to the task, don’t forget Civilization IV. Despite being old, it still works fine on Windows 10 through Steam.
- CPU: Core 2 Duo
- RAM: 2GB
- GPU: Intel HD 3000
EA gets a lot of flak. It was rated as the most despised company in America two years in a row, after all. However, it doesn’t half know how to court a big audience. And that means making sure games like The Sims 4 work on just about everything.
This infamous lifestyle sim even has a “laptop” mode created for systems that can barely make it through the title screen of The Witcher 3. The game itself is very much business as usual: you slog through a virtual life, making bucks and designing living rooms. Or doing your best to torture some poor virtual peon by locking them in an inescapable toilet.